Category Archives: Craft a Post50 Lifestyle

The Grace of An Ordinary Life

The rooster three doors down crows every morning before dawn here in Mexico. I don’t need an alarm because the internal clock of Mr. Cock-a-Doodle-Doo relays the message to anticipate sunrise – the beginning of a new day.

Studies show it is the highest-ranking rooster that greets the dawn first. The others wait patiently before they join in.

Waiting patiently for something “new” to appear in life is an option. But moving toward newness – to choose a path out of your ordinary, do something different, make a first-time attempt – is an effort steeped in grace.

To feel the newness of life after fifty or sixty years of living is extraordinary.

‘Senior Wonders’ and the Rest of Us

When a Guggenheim Fellowship is awarded to a 79-year-old to pursue his writing, I am giddy with glee. Congratulations!

And while I might not understand her motivation, the 80-year-old grandma hanging from a 100-foot pole gets my admiration too. Stories of individuals in the last third of life who experience new achievements and try out new stuff are more common than ever.

“Senior Wonders: People Who Achieved Their Dreams After Age 60” introduces twenty-five individuals who achieved extraordinary success, for the first time, after the age of sixty. Next Avenue says these individuals exemplify “triumphant aging.”

But one Amazon reviewer wrote, “I was disappointed in this book. I thought it would be about plain ordinary people.”

I’m ordinary people. Maybe you are too.

Thinking you are ordinary is not a character flaw. It simply means in your life, as in mine, there are no paparazzi. My ordinariness includes a mortgage, a portfolio that isn’t doing much, a ten-year-old car, and days when I miss my firm jaw line.

I struggle at times putting my needs first (crucial in the last third of your life as you might not have another chance.) I want things I can’t afford but most of all I just want to be happy and do good work. This is ordinary stuff.

What that Amazon reviewer was missing is the connection between her – the ordinary person – and the idea of “triumphant aging.”

Can the last third of an ordinary life exemplify triumph? Or do we have to become a successful over-sixty entrepreneur or hang from a pole?

If triumphant aging is not about being on some late-in-life achievement list, what can it be? Let’s take a look.

The Wonder Within

Grace is often associated with spirituality. Perhaps that’s one reason most of us don’t attach this word – grace – to the ordinary lives we live.

Author Cheryl Richardson calls grace, “a beautiful, benevolent kind of energy.”

This idea that grace is a kind of force within us – an available energy each of can use with discretion – means we have a lever to pull. One that can push us toward meaningful, exciting possibilities.

Using the movement of energy to make life new again is a triumph of living well in the last third of your life.  Grace can mean “to adorn.” Even the most commonplace things can be jazzed. Julie now has blue hair (as in baby blue), Dee Dee throws her own first birthday party (very proud and happy with that event); Matthew (65) books his first ever online date; Rick smiles and breaks his budget to buy a piece of art he loves; Joyce (ever pragmatic) suddenly signs a year-long lease on an apartment in a foreign country.

With extra years in our lifetimes, we can adorn our ordinary lives. We can bring more first-time experiences, try out alternatives, do something differently and choose brand-spanking new ways to live life. This opportunity to explore who you are and arrive at a way of living that is nearer to your own personal values and desires is one of the great gifts of longevity.

Triumphant aging is making life feel new again. Triumphant aging is letting the past go and finding a fresh new start. Triumphant aging is to wake up excited about the day before you. Triumphant aging is taking a chance late in life.

Each of us has is the ability to infuse life with grace – this kind, benevolent energy.

This is the grace of an ordinary life.

 A Bigger Room for Choices

When advice by gurus for living the last part of our lives is condensed, it sounds like this:

Find a purpose.

Be sure to locate your passion.

Throw a switch and reinvent yourself.

(You know, of course, I think this advice is high-minded, boring and not relevant for those of us actually blazing trails in adult development.)

I am happy to tell you that more and more individuals are bypassing the suggested “find your purpose” path and constructing lives enjoying “firsts” and feeling “new.” They are giddy with delight.

This time in our lives is not a walk down easy street. Not by far. When and why to leave careers, where to live, how to refine our engagement, how to finagle finances and keep commitments to partners and loved ones – are all factors in any life, ordinary or not.

Accessing “movement and energy” – the grace within each of us – means we can refresh our spirits, ourselves and life itself.

Individuals over sixty who “feel new” aren’t as rare as you might think. In actions large and small, people facing the last third of life break routines and habits.

They have knee replacements and heart transplants in Mexico and tell their kids they’re spending this Christmas in Portugal. The non-joiners become joiners. They cut the amount of energy devoted to friendships that aren’t reciprocal and use their energy to go on the hunt for new friends. Couples married over thirty years try therapy for the very first time. Other couples carve out very-married-but-living-apart lifestyles (this would be me.)

Whatever happened in the past is carried forward. They are not new individuals. But they are approaching life differently – in fresh ways.

Life Shakedown

Who am I and how shall I live?

Over the course of a long life this two-part question will become impossible to ignore conclude Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, authors of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in the Age of Longevity.

At the center of building a productive 100-year life are plans and experiments. You need to experiment to find what works for you – to understand what you enjoy and value and to be insightful about what resonates with you.

Curiosity is the driving force of newness. Rummaging around inside the minds of bright-eyed Third Lifers, I notice there’s less fear. Not ‘no fear,’ but more space and room for choices that previously were shut down quickly.

In the 3rd Third of life, we now can contain a larger repertoire of behaviors. We can realize that experimentation is not just for the young; it is crucial at all ages. It is experiments that guide us to where we want to be next and reveal how we can navigate the transitions ahead.

Indeed it is this sense of experimentation and exploration that is part of the thread that runs through life. Now, more than ever, our hearts demand a lot more attention. Give that attention some action and our hearts become bigger. Big hearts produce more courage.

But making ordinary lives new again? Feeling new even as our biological age delivers a record number of years we have lived?

It’s a wow, but can you do it?

What small steps can we take to pull our horizons closer to lead us to moments of newness? Can we create different ways to do things and take a chance? Can we cultivate enough curiosity to lead to new identities?

“Estoy Nueva” – I Am New

This post isn’t about being new in town. It’s about how ordinary people like you and me are becoming wise and deliberate in finding newness. And what happens when you do that.

But it did start with my being new in town.

In a shared taxi after my first Newcomer’s Meeting in San Miguel de Allende, a woman from Kansas converses with the driver in darn good Spanish. I commend her. My Spanish darts in and out of my brain with rapidity so I’m impressed.

“You need to speak some Spanish because the locals will appreciate it,” this woman says matter-of-factly. Then she kicks into teacher mode during the 10-minute ride.

“The most important words are ‘por favor’ – please. Learn that one and say it a lot. Say it now.”

I do. “Good,” she continues. “After that, ‘muchas gracias,’ (thank you) and  ‘lo siento’ (I’m sorry.)”

I repeat those too.

She tells me always to use the right greeting for the time of day and to smile when I say it.

Buenas Dias, Buenas Tartes and Buenas Noches

Okay she’s a little bossy but I don’t mind.

“For you the best thing is to try, try, try.” After a moment she adds, “And say this too. ‘Estoy nueva.’”

Then she made me say it until I got it exactly right. Estoy nueva.

“That’s it! You got it!” she said, “Tell them you are new. Say it over and over. Say, I am new.”

I say ‘estoy nueva’ all the next day and realize that yes I am new in town and because of this I make mistakes and discoveries every day. And so each day is new and this is precisely why my life feels new.

It’s a marvelous feeling.

When’s the last time your life felt new?


Actually you don’t have to bother finding your ‘new.’ You can live out your life with no changes at all. You can (and many do) even start to narrow life so choices are fewer and fewer. This is their comfort.

Life wants us all here. The grace of an ordinary life is the energy each of us carries within and how we use it.

If you want a new day, a new start or the feeling of “new,” you can find or discover it.

The cock crows for all of us.


Thank you for taking your time to read and support my work. I invite you to make a comment and join me on Facebook. Special thanks to all of you who continue to forward posts. I appreciate that!

All Photos by B. Pagano

Posted in Craft a Post50 Lifestyle, Living Your Best 3rd Third of Life | 6 Comments

How to Render the Desires of Your Grown-Up Heart into Life Ahead

Every time I start a picture...I feel the same fear, the same self-doubts...and I have only one source on which I can draw, because it comes from within me. --Federico Fellini
Every time I start a picture…I feel the same fear, the same self-doubts…and I have only one source on which I can draw, because it comes from within me. –Federico Fellini

In the blue distance your life will unfurl.

I wish people spent more time contemplating that blue distance and less time on Facebook.

There is so much more to life unseen by the eye. Brazen of me to say as Instagram revels in double-digit growth. Selfies are now one of the most popular activities in our culture. Don’t tell me you haven’t done this.

Obviously social media has proven we are obsessed with ourselves.

Good news for those of us with a long future to map out. As well as a look at our lives as it unfolds, perhaps we can start a conversation to discover dormant aspirations, wants, longings and requests for a life ahead.

To unlock an idea or two on how to make our lives more of what we want, I advocate you listen don’t look.

Where to start our listening?

Well, your book club probably has ideas about how you could live your life better. Your daughter, husband, partner, ex-husband, your mother, therapist, and even your BFF may enlighten you.

There’s more.

If you could eavesdrop last week in the kitchen of that couple cleaning up in their kitchen after you left the dinner party, their conversation might explain your better life to you.

These are all voices worthy of consideration – modest and minor perhaps – but, you get the point. Contributions on how your life could be better abound.

Being busy and all, let’s cut to the chase. There’s one person who knows us best.

You got it! And you talk to yourself about your life all the time.

But mostly that’s a voice from your head which is good, just not reliable enough for all the important decisions for all of life’s twists and turns.

Another voice that can guide you to even smarter options for your future life waits quietly to help you. This voice knows you just as well as your head voice, but in different ways.

It’s a small voice deep inside your gut that waits for years between invites.

Nevertheless, it’s always 288

Getting Tough

If you expect me to jump right in with soupy quotes about how you should start journaling to unlock your deep heart desires or how listening to your heart will power up your authentic self, I anticipate disappointment because this isn’t going to happen. Check out Oprah for the soul approach.

First let’s get real and start with firm footing.

When it comes to creating a better life or making a transition, your rational mind and all that you’ve learned are invaluable.

Life lessons help us know how to create a better future path; improved decision making doesn’t hurt.

By middle age, you’ve weathered some serious setbacks. You’ve lost at love, not been chosen more than a couple of times, and experienced career frustrations, drawbacks and defeats.

Friend and sibling dis-enchantments stack right alongside children who were pains in the ass, proved to be disappointing and may still be on the payroll and/or live at home. Serious illness, parents gone.

When it felt like the end of the world, you kept going.

You survived. You are strong.

I started feeling strong in mid-life. I still feel it.

I lost a lot of my fragility when I was 25 in a Master’s Program intent on building my psychological core (lots of Esalen stuff). At 30 (divorce) came financial and parental responsibility (single-working mom -7.5 years), at 41 came entrepreneurial challenges (a career pivot), and in my mid-fifties I set sail with my daughter for a 6-month not-knowing-much-but-doing-it-anyway stint. At 60 I drew strength to carve out a new life using a work a little, play a little model.

So many people feel that strength is in their youth. That’s not really spot-on.

It takes time to get a notion of your strength.  You don’t really know what you have inside until you are faced with drawing upon it.  I’ve learned this is the great inspiration of life.

But even as I’m strong, at times I’m lost and I don’t know why.

On days when my future is unclear, I can get hesitant or doubtful. I can even be skeptical about putting forth the effort to be in charge of my life. (I’m turning it over to God. Whatever. I’ll figure this out later. Just let it happen.)

It may seem puzzling to feel strong alongside feelings with names like – uncertain, ambiguous, tentative and lost. All it really means is you need more information.

Input perhaps from … yes,that small voice inside … the voice of your heart to tell you first-hand ways to find your way.

Why is it that the voice from your heart is so important?

Because your heart is never lost.

For the past thirty-three years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" and whenever the answer has been "no" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. --Steve Jobs
For the past thirty-three years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” and whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. –Steve Jobs

The Heart Knows Your Reality

While being strong is about surviving, being strong is also about being as honest as possible about yourself with yourself.

Why listen to your heart now when you haven’t done so well doing it before?

Why listen to your heart when you doubt you can do what it asks of you?

Why listen as your health falters or future finances are gloomy?

Why listen now when you already listened a decade ago and made decisions about your life then?

Because listening to your heart creates awareness of your current reality and gives you perspective of your impending life.

The heart knows that things that matter in the time ahead will be different than what mattered in the past. Fore sure, we’ll take life lessons with us into the future. But life lesson are from the past and the past is another country.

You’re headed out of that country.

The heart is easy to talk to. You don’t have to fill the heart in on your past, prepare lists or even ask too many questions.

In mid-life the heart already knows your reality – that you are staring down the dwindling of time, busy as hell, don’t have all the time in the world and are not in the mood for reflective bullshit.

You need important truths. The heart will tell you those because the heart knows you are strong.

Best of all, the heart wants you to get your life right.


Listen to My Heart? Oh Please. So Woo.

When my heart talks to me, it says crazy things.

Some days my heart tells me I need pack up and move to San Miguel de Allende.  Immediately, my head chimes in with a litany of responsibilities, roles and commitments that would make this very, very difficult. (I kept editing out that second ‘very’ but each time my head made me put it back.)

Some days my heart tells me to lock myself in a room and finish writing the damn book. My head wants to know who will water my flower pots, make morning tea for my husband, bike with Marny, laugh with friends, travel with Dee Dee, play chase with my grandson, sit on the beach and read, or watch my grown child grow – all priorities that compete with every second of my life.

The contest between heart and head is a battleground.

Some people listen to their heart and don’t do a damn thing differently. Other people listen to their hearts and change their lives.

While the simple act of listening is important and powerful, there is no sense asking anything of your heart if you will not accept what the heart will say.

Will you immediately dismiss an idea, become overwhelmed, slip into doubt or succumb to defeat?

In other words, will you allow your head to interrupt the message and sabotage the process? Smart people do this all the time.

We must be clear on this: why listen at all?

To listen to your heart is to build strength through the honest conversation about yourself with yourself.

I’ve said this already but this is truly important. What you gain from being honest with yourself is just as great as any changes, if any, you make.

You will be stronger just because you listened.

IMG_3286 Mental Fitness Before Listening to One’s Heart

If you think you can pull up a chair and start talking to your heart, you are right. You can. But you’ll end up doing most of the talking since your heart voice can’t cut you off in the middle of a sentence or talk over you.

Ask your heart voice a question and you won’t get a lecture. You’ll get something more like a soundless tweet. You’ll have to listen hard.

The best conditions for listening to the voices in your heart are met when you seek and accept the gift and responsibility you are given – to live your one life as best you can.

Meet each of these 9 criteria before you ask anything of your heart.

  1. Believe You Are Responsible – Give yourself permission to life the life you want.

  2. Enhance the Perception of Control – You won’t control everything in your future. But you can control more than you think.

  3. Believe What You Do Matters – It matters to live in the present. It also matters to create the future.

  4.  See Positive Challenge– Try, try, try…then generously give yourself to failure if that’s how it works out.

  5. Enhance the Goal Value – Savor and Imagine your life at the end of an achievement…before you plan it.

  6. Devalue Competing Goals – Re prioritize everything all the time. Make your future in the top 3.

  7. Be Conscientious on One Thing – Forget lists. Be selective and accountable for one important thing.

  8. Fight Difficulties – There is no age when life stays on easy street for a long time. Fight.

  9. Regulate Your Emotions – Keep negative emotions – self-doubt, guilt, regret- at bay. Stuff them in an invisible suitcase. Do not pick that suit case up.IMG_4835

Last Call

The ‘rider’s up’ call given at the Kentucky Derby signals the horses to head to the track for the final race. Everyone anticipating the race listens for that call.

In late mid-life, there’s a ‘listen up’ call that alerts the transition to take you to your future.

Anticipate it. Prepare for it. Don’t miss it.



If this content leads to a bit of fresh thinking, new perspective or resonates with you, please “Like” this post. Thank you in advance.

I invite you to make a comment, join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Special thanks to all of you who continue to forward posts. I appreciate that!

All Photos by B. Pagano.

Posted in Craft a Post50 Lifestyle, Self-Management | 1 Comment

The Working Retirement: 7 Things To Do Within 5 Years of Leaving Your Job

IMG_0547It’s no joke. You intend to create a different kind of life in the future.

In this imagined life, you cease responding to texts and emails that waste your time. You’ll never again endure a narcissist’s rant.

No long commutes, improbable targets and boring, stupid meetings.

No way.

In this new life, the day unfolds just the way you’d like. You’ll ditch every person who really doesn’t matter to you because that’s what people do when time is precious.

Imagine that.

Ahead is travel, moments to stare at a river running, tea on the porch with old Aunt Phoebe and sharing gourmet strawberry-blueberry popsicles with a four-year-old grandchild who makes you swoon.

You’ll work.  Oh yeah.

This work beams enthusiasm and engagement into your life because you choose it. Best of all, you’ll make some money and avoid the #1 reported worry of running out of money in retirement.

Life will be grand, believe me.

IMG_0691Lights, Camera … Now What?

If you are mid-50s, 60s or 70s and don’t think this way, you should.

Just ahead is a big chunk of freedom, time and more than enough choices to create a life doing more what you want. It’s the last shot at getting it right which makes it different than other times in life.

This new life that heads straight for us but seems far away gets little of our bandwidth.

We make no firm plans. We prepare nothing in advance, put nothing in order nor concoct even one hair brain scheme to test the premise that the last third of life could be our very best.

It’s pure madness. (more…)

Posted in Craft a Post50 Lifestyle, Productive Longevity, Reconstuct Retirement, Self-Management | Leave a comment

Ten Ways to Transition into Paid Work Instead of Retirement

2014-10-04 15.37.08Yesterday outside Publix, I ran into an old friend. We talked, caught up and then he asked about my work.

“I’m helping people uncover possibilities for being productive in work until they want to retire at 85!”

He smiled. Gene is in his mid-sixties and lost his administrative job for a successful land developer when the economy sunk the business several years ago.

“Barbara,” he said, “I’m pretty much wasting away in front of the TV and doing social stuff. I would give anything short of bagging groceries to have work for 2-3 days a week.”

Gene isn’t depressed or unhappy with his life. But he could be happier if he were involved in work that utilized his talents.

If you are unemployed, already retired or looking ahead, the journey to discover work you want to do can confuse and overwhelm even the smartest, creative and most successful individual.

We are in the midst of a cultural shift – creating new paths for work and careers in this age of longevity – where many of us will have an addition 25-30 years of potential productive living ahead.

The good news is the world of work is opening up many possibilities for a late-in-life work-groove that fits the lifestyle you want to create.

This post is for you, Gene. (more…)

Posted in Craft a Post50 Lifestyle, Endless Careers, Productive Longevity, Reconstuct Retirement, Self-Management | Leave a comment

Starry, Starry ‘Life’ – Inspire Your Reinvention with a Transition Story (6 Tips and 9 Ideas)

I dream my painting, and I paint my dream. - Van Gogh
I dream my painting, and I paint my dream. – Van Gogh

What’s the dream for your life ahead? How hard are you pushing yourself to get it?

The Rijksmuseum is TripAdvisor’s #1 rated ‘Things to do” in Amsterdam. But not for me. On my visit last month I wanted none of those dark Dutch paintings.

I wanted Van Gogh’s “Starry, Starry Night.” Turns out “The Starry Night” is in New York and part of the Museum of Modern Art’s Permanent Collection since 1941.

Never mind. The  Van Gogh Museum is spectacular without it.

Spectacular? Yep. With three floors of 850 paintings, 1300 works on paper, and insights from his correspondence (940 letters), you come to know Van Gogh – the person, the artist, his heartaches and determination.

There’s Van Gogh the junior clerk at an art firm, the teacher, the bookseller and the preacher. All this before he decided to become an artist at the age of 27. Self-taught, unmarried, childless and supported (and loved) by his brother, Theo. The public did not know of Van Gogh until after his death at 37; he sold one painting during his lifetime.

The Van Gogh Museum experience was a highlight of my time in Holland and later that afternoon I recalled another museum two years ago with floor after floor of colorful works of art.

The Museu Picasso de Barcelona houses one of the most extensive collections of artworks by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso whose life circumstances are the flip side of Van Gogh’s.

Picasso started to paint when he was eight, finished his first painting at nine (the year Van Gogh died) and at 13 he entered Barcelona’s School of Fine Arts, where his father taught. Picasso was an established artist at 20. Fame, fortune, numerous love affairs, three children – Picasso led the “good life.” He died at 91.

Each of these artists influenced future art and over 100 years later their works sell for millions.

In May 2015, Van Gogh’s “L’allée Des Alyscamps” was the big seller at Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art auction bringing $66.3 million – when it expected to sell for 40 million.
In May 2015, Van Gogh’s “L’allée Des Alyscamps” was the big seller at Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art auction bringing $66.3 million – when it expected to sell for 40 million.
Days later Picasso’s painting Women of Algiers set the record for the highest price ever paid for a painting when it sold for US$179.3 million at Christie's in New York.
Days later Picasso’s painting Women of Algiers set the record for the highest price ever paid for a painting when it sold for US$179.3 million at Christie’s in New York.

What does this have to do with you?

These twentieth century artists have two things in common:

  • Extraordinary productivity especially toward the end of their lives
  • A fire in their internal soul to continue their work – forever.

Neither of these artists allowed their flame for their work to be extinguished. You and I must discover and foster how this might be possible in our own lives.

How’s your flame doing?

When I was studying interior architecture, and playing around with glass because I really liked glass. There was one night when I blew a bubble and put a pipe into this glass I had melted and blew a bubble. From that moment, I wanted to be a glassblower. - Dale Chihuly Read more a
When I was studying interior architecture, and playing around with glass because I really liked glass. There was one night when I blew a bubble and put a pipe into this glass I had melted and blew a bubble. From that moment, I wanted to be a glassblower.
– Dale Chihuly

Off to Work We Go

It would have been understandable for Van Gogh to allow hardships which included anxiety, poverty and mental instability to dim his passion. Picasso didn’t need the money or much more fame. He could have stopped midlife.

Yet, in the last years of their lives they continued to pour energy into their work with remarkable results.

  • In his final years, Picasso had a tremendous last burst of productivity painting with the phenomenal speed he had had as a teenager in Barcelona.
  • Van Gogh painted 70 works in the last two months of his life.

People with high Career Wellbeing – doing meaningful work – are more than twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall. (If you want to understand the research and documentation for choosing work, see Why You Must Dare, Dream and Work – Forever.)

We must ask:

How can we keep our flame for work and life from diminishing?

Do you feel your flame for putting your talents and skills to use in new ways?

Can you imagine doing your ‘work’ until the very last day of your life? (more…)

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Reinventing Yourself? Why You Need a Transition Story.

  amsterdam 242  amsterdam 195

The inside window ledges of the homes in Northern Holland tell stories.

During my ten-day visit I saw handsome turquoise pottery, painted pitchers, tall vases with flowers, ceramic birds and farm animals, wooden ships, and tin angels displayed in the windows.

In villages on the Frisian Islands, homes with large front windows edge the sidewalks. As I pause to look closely at what’s on a window ledge, I need only lift my gaze for a look straight through three rooms. Beyond the sofa area, a wood dining table with chairs and a small kitchen in the back complete the first floor.

Often I saw all the way through the back window into a yard with a garden or a clothesline full of floating clothes.

Curious as I was, I didn’t want to gawk. I kept my glances brief. Several times I surveyed the insides of these homes and missed noticing the people in the front room. They were more cordial than you or I might be to a stranger staring in their front window.

The father reading a story to a child on the sofa raised his head, met my eyes and smiled. The woman knitting in her corner chair gave me a pleasing nod.

Day after day I learned about people in places pronounced confidently and with staccato –Enkhuizen, Hoogkarspel, Oosterblokker, Wervershoof. They like order, tidiness, and enjoy a muted palette. They love flowers with large colorful blooms, Hollyhocks and Hydrangeas.

The Dutch are very polite. Because bikes are a primary means of transportation, bike paths meld into walkways and roads differentiated only by the color of the bricks. Many, many times a bike rider’s melodic, gentle bike bell advised me I was not on a foot path as I thought, but in the middle of the bike path.

amsterdam 030

In villages everywhere I looked on window ledges, peered in homes, observed the young and old ride bikes, kite surf, maneuver boats and ships, and walk their dogs. I wondered about these people and their lives – who they were, their hopes, their dreams.

What were their stories? How did the things on the window ledges connect to them?

My window sills are bare and yours may be too. Still, we have stories. Everyone has stories.

Life is a narrative of stories. Unique stories, linked over time.

In our lives there are places where a story is about to stop before a new one has begun. That can be a confusing time.

When it’s time for a change in life – as a turning point begins and the future is unclear-that’s when you need a story the most.

Transitions without a story are hell to navigate. (more…)

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Lost in Transition? Try the ‘Tough Cookie 100-Day Plan for Getting Unstuck’ (Over 30 Ideas)

Time keeps on telling me who to love, where to go. Time keeps on pushing me further on down the road. -- Lyrics from "Time" by Josh Rouse
Time keeps on telling me who to love, where to go. Time keeps on pushing me further on down the road. — Lyrics from “Time” by Josh Rouse

There are only two types of people in the world: people who do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it, and people who don’t do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it.

I am the first type. I do what I say I am going to do. Unless, of course, I’m stuck. I hate getting stuck.

All of us, despite best intentions or track records of follow through, often find we’re lost, confused, undecided, doubtful and ambiguous. We’re frozen in place in the larger context of life, even as we manage to look busy and ooze a pretend-kind of happy.

When it comes to inventing life – a new or continued career, different view out the window, ways to make money, different people to hang with, better focused choices, more engaged productivity – the whole darn thing is daunting.

We think about how we might change. We think how life could be even better. We think we should start thinking about our last third of life.

Time passes and we drift around in our thoughts.

It’s not you that’s the problem. It’s the process. (more…)

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The #1 Myth of Midlife Change: How It Holds You Back and Ways to Bust It Up

IMG_3403“Roll up your sleeves – midlife change is your best and last chance to become the real you.”

Thus begins the article, “The Existential Necessity of Midlife Change,” in the Harvard Business Review OnPoint, Your Next Move, Summer 2015.

I was puzzled momentarily. The term “real you” is odd, isn’t it?

Who are you now if you’re not the real you?

Here’s the answer: You are the “everyday” you.

Most of us have two selves – the everyday self which gets all mixed up in living a life and your true self (also known as the “real you.”)

I read a description of the ‘true self’ as a beach ball submerged beneath the water.

  Because your true self is a like a beach ball pushed deep under the water—you only need to take your hands off of it, and it will explode to the surface. 

 Oh baloney. Most people are not holding their beach ball down.

They can’t find their beach ball.


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Five Things People Who Love Their Post50 Lives Don’t Do


"There’s a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that." From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.
“There’s a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that.” From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

One day you think: Oh, here is the rest of my life. It’s finally arrived.

The map of how you got here may be in front of you, but what to do now? No map for that.

Still we do figure it out.

Not all of us do it well. At least, not every time.

 I solved life after college graduation rather fine. But post-divorce invoked a shaky time that curled my toes and wreaked havoc on providing for my daughter in a fitting way. (My mom sent money.)

 What followed was a long stretch of eight years as a single working mother who layered up a strong sense of self and confidence. I carried that forward.

 The first year of my second marriage created an interesting juxtaposition. How much could (or would) I compromise but still be in charge of me and my life?

My eleven-year-old daughter and I decorated her bedroom with Marimekko sheets and matching wallpaper. But I kept a suitcase with a stash of cash for a quick get-away for us inside my new closet.

 Symbolic of questioning marriage survival, yes, but also a sign of my wobbly sureness. ‘Could I somehow have misjudged this man who seemed so solid in promise-keeping and honesty?’ I hadn’t.

But it was an uncertain year.

A pre-planned midlife crisis resulted in professional choices to season my skills and buoy my finances to a higher level than I dreamed possible. But when the economy stumbled, so did I. 

Time to reinvent? Oh please. I ran away.

Sailing away for six months was a grand and valuable adventure. I only came back because I ran out of money. And because my husband hadn’t signed up for a marriage where he pinpointed his wife’s whereabouts by latitude and longitude.

 In my late fifties, I wandered too long in and out of ideas that hovered over the transition into a third life.

No one should have to do that. 

The conclusion was that I care deeply that I do a good job in all endeavors – especially this one of living the last third of life. I made a map.

Slipping into new shoes, I feel steady and rock-solid on this path. 

Just like other times.

I may not have known that the spots of figuring out what’s-next-for-my-life would be so prevalent, but I know it now.

Your story has different twists and turns.

And as much as each of us tries to swerve and miss the place of no map, we still end up here.

Over and over again. (more…)

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Letting Go of An Identity That Served You Well: Five Strategies


2014-09-15 18.26.23On a recent visit my best friend for fifty-one years placed three envelopes beside my morning coffee.

“I kept these for you,” Janice said.

Years ago phone calls were expensive for the volume of talking we wanted. We corresponded with letters – “notes to ourselves about our lives and ourselves.”

In retrospect the hours I carved out to write Janice – to reflect and contemplate decisions on the threshold of passages, challenging times, disappointments and joys – were the bread and butter of my self-development.

The letters in front of me were ones I wrote during the month following of my daughter’s birth, April 12, 1970. I was twenty-five, married for five years, had lived in five places in three years (following the career of my husband) and was an easily employed, happy teacher wherever we unloaded the U-Haul.

I looked at the letters written over 40 years ago and hesitated. I mean this is a damn long time ago and I recall an early adulthood route overloaded with societal markers and expectations I was beginning to question.

I read them.

The hour-by-hour description of labor and birth was in the first letter. The next two (both eight pages double-sided) described sleep-deprived days full of the wonder and practicalities of motherhood.

Then, there it was. Right there after making the choice between Pampers and a diaper service, were my most personal struggles. Concerns about the mother I would become, the good wife I was struggling to be and the blank space of my ‘self’ leaning in on me.

Looking back from a long distance I seemed like a young tree looking for sunlight. I was pretty soft and bendy in the identity department. I was trying to please a lot of people.

“This is me?” queried my today self.

Well, yes I wrote the letters, but the writer did not resemble much of who I am now except she did seem nice. I am nice.

In the end I did claim that woman writing at her kitchen table wearing bell-bottoms in the fetching house in the monied part of Akron, Ohio with the poodle, the entrepreneurial husband putting in his 10,000 hours headed to success and the beautiful baby girl.

I claim her not as ‘me,’ but as one of many selves I’ve been in life.

Five years later I would trade this self in for a new, improved one. (And, a less financially secure one.)

Trading selves is what we do as we grow up and change. (more…)

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